Long Island Town Repurposes Seafood Shells To Launch Great Barrier Reef

- Shells from Area Restaurants Give New Life to Barrier Island that Protects South Shore from Powerful Storms -

Issued by: Town of Hempstead, Office of Supervisor Laura Gillen

(LIDO BEACH, NY) July 12, 2018 - Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, along with State Senate Ranking Environmental Committee Member Senator Todd Kaminsky, Town Councilwoman Erin King-Sweeney and Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana, joined environmentalists and local officials to launch a living barrier reef composed of tens of thousands of discarded clam and oyster shells from nearby seafood restaurants around Long Meadow Island off the coast of Lido Beach.

Hundreds of mesh bags containing the discarded shells will be linked together and submerged in the western bays off the coast of Lido Beach in order to restore a nearby barrier island that serves as a natural defense against coastal storm surges.

Long Island’s south shore population centers are protected from storm inundation and the full force of powerful storm waves by this network of barrier islands.

“The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy and the risks posed by climate change and sea-level rise justify bold actions,” said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen. “We are dramatically improving coastal resiliency along the South Shore by fortifying and restoring these natural barrier islands to levels not seen in decades.”

“Restoring flourishing aquatic life on Reynolds Channel is great for the environment and can help the local economy. I look forward to advancing this project with Supervisor Gillen and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” said Senator Todd Kaminsky, Ranking Member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

The reefs also attract new sea life to support the region’s growing marine economy, and help filtrate waters polluted by years of excess nitrogen from sewage and wastewater runoff.

Excess nitrogen pollution has led to the degradation of the coastal marshland complexes help protect Long Island’s south shore population centers from storm inundation.

Once the materials settle on the sea floor the reef structure will begin to fill with various species of marine life and over time the structure will create a habitat very similar to a natural reef.

"I am proud that Hempstead Town has been at the forefront of being environmentally responsible, and continues to propose innovative ways to maintain our ecosystems while local businesses can continue to thrive," stated Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney.”

“This is a great day for the Town of Hempstead and for our collective safety and environment,” said Town Clerk Sylvia Cabana.

“Artificial reefs act as nursery grounds and habitat for shellfish, fin fish and critically needed sea grass. Healthy bays mean happy people! Long islanders love living by the water and it’s our responsibility to restore this magnificent resource. Kudos to the Town of Hempstead for a stride forward in restoring our waterways,” said Adrienne Esposito, Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

When complete, these living reefs will add up to over a half mile when combined with pre-existing Town reef projects along barrier islands in Baldwin Bay, Black Banks and Mill River.

“Not many may realize that these islands are responsible for protecting Long Island’s south shore population centers. They protect thousands of homes and major roads from storm inundation and the full force of powerful storm waves,” said Supervisor Laura Gillen. “Added to this, the reefs will also attract new sea life to support our region’s growing marine and eco-tourism economy.”

Long Island's history, culture and traditions are closely linked to shellfish. The first coastal inhabitants of New York called Long Island the "Island of Shells" in recognition of the vast numbers of clam, oyster and other shells deposited on its shore.

“I think there’s something very special and fitting about turning once again to these shells in order to help protect our homes and our environment from future disasters,” said Supervisor Gillen.